Breaking Bread in Luke-Acts IV: Acts 20:7-12

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he feel to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken [the] bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.

The intentional character of “breaking bread” is obvious. The church gathered in order to break bread. This was its explicit purpose for assembling. Paul’s sermon was an addendum or special circumstance. But Luke does not tell this story simply to note another Pauline sermon or to describe a Christian assembly. Rather, Luke tells this story because it combines several elements which illuminate the connection between breaking bread, the first day of the week and resurrection. Luke tells this story because on this particular first day of the week when the disciples were gathered to break bread the church experienced firsthand a resurrection from the dead.

The combination of these factors connects this story with Luke 24 which should inform our reading of Acts 20. The parallels between Acts 20 and Luke 24 (reflected in the below chart) indicate that Luke wants us to read Acts 20 in the light of Luke 24, and consequently in the light of Luke 22–the Last Supper. Both Acts 20 and Luke 24 record the combination of three significant and complementary ideas: breaking bread, first day of the week and resurrection.

Topic

 

Luke 24

Acts 20

Gathering of Disciples

24:33

20:7

Breaking of Bread

24:30,35

20:7,11

Eating Together

24:42-43

20:11

First Day of the Week

24:1,13

20:7

Teaching the Word (logos)

24:44

20:7

Conversation (omileo)

24:14-15

20:11

A Rising from the Dead

24:5,46

20:10,12

Fear

24:37-38

20:11

The Living One (zota)

24:5

20:12

The Greek text of Acts 20:7, despite some translations which read “Saturday evening,” clearly identifies the day of meeting as the “first day of the week.” While sabbath after sabbath Paul had been in the synagogues speaking to Jews (cf. Acts 13:14, 44; 17:2; 18:4), when he encounters a Christian group, they are meeting on the first day of the week. It is uncertain whether this assumes a Jewish reckoning of time (sunset to sunset, so that Acts 20 = Saturday evening) or a Roman reckoning (sunrise to sunrise, so that Acts 20 = Sunday evening). Given the Gentile character of Troas, it was probably a Sunday evening. Either way, they met on the first day of the week rather than on the sabbath and this is in stark contrast with synagogue meetings in Acts.

The “first day of the week” connects this text theologically with Luke 24. This is no mere temporal indicator or incidental reference. Rather, seen in the light of Luke 24, it is a theological marker. There is theological significance to the “first day of the week” as the day of resurrection and the birthday of the church (Pentecost; cf. Leviticus 23:15-21, 33-36). It is the first day of the new creation. The first day of the week is rooted in the saving act of God in the gospel. The day has redemptive-historical significance as its explicit notation in each of the Gospel stories stresses (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). Jesus as the “first fruit” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) was raised seven weeks before Pentecost just as the first fruits of the harvest were offered to God before the rest of the harvest was gathered and celebrated at Pentecost (Lev. 23:9-14). The Spirit was poured out and the new community inaugurated on the first day of the week in celebration of the “first fruit” seven weeks prior.

On the first day of the week, Jesus first appeared to his disciples, broke bread with them and ate in their presence while showing himself to be alive (Luke 24:13,30,33,46), and one week later did the same thing (John 20:19,26). The first day of the week, then, as resurrection day and as the day that Jesus ate with his disciples became designated as the day when disciples would gather weekly to break bread together. While the Jerusalem church did this daily (at least for a while, perhaps only during the Pentecost festival), Troas appears to have embraced a weekly practice. Luke’s language reflects a common way of expressing the Sunday gathering since the language of “gathering,” “breaking bread,” and “first day of the week” are commonly linked in early literature (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:20; 16:1; Didache 14:1; Ignatius, Ephesians 20:2).

The weekly observance became standard in the late first and mid-second centuries as indicated by the Didache (14:1) and Justin Martyr (First Apology, 46-47). However, Ignatius (died ca. 115) exhorted the Ephesians to celebrate the Eucharist “more frequently” (Ephesians 13:1), which presumably means more than just Sunday. While there is no evidence of a daily Eucharist in the second century, there is evidence that it was not restricted to Sunday alone. For example, Easter was celebrated in the Asia Minor throughout the second century on Nissan 14 even if it fell on a day other than Sunday (the Quatrodeciman controversy). Towards the end of the second century it is apparent that the Eucharist was celebrated on the anniversaries of martyrs and at other times as well (Tertullian, On the Crown 3:3-4). By the third century there is a daily celebration in Carthage, North Africa (cf. Cyprian, The Lord’s Prayer 18).

The “first day of the week” in Acts 20 is no incidental reference. On the contrary, it reflects the intentional linkage of Acts 20 with Luke 24 in the light of the resurrection story that Acts 20 describes. Both Luke 24 and Acts 20 describe a situation of death which gives birth to life. Jesus emerges from the tomb “alive” and Eutyches goes home “alive,” though they were both dead. The resurrection of Eutyches is a concrete experience of victory for the church at Troas. When they gathered to break bread with the risen Eutyches, they ate with a visible example of the kind of hope they celebrated in the light of the resurrection of Jesus. That Supper was a celebration of hope and life as we imagine the Troas assembly sitting across the table from Eutyches as they broke bread together. The congregation was greatly “comforted,” which is what the contemporary church should experience as it breaks bread together in the presence of the living Christ.

Unfortunately, some read this text as if there were two different breakings of the bread. But the text does not say that they broke the bread in Acts 20:7, but only that they came together to break bread. They did not break the bread until after Paul’s homily and Eutyches’ resurrection. When they return to the third floor, then they broke bread and ate. While the text uses the singular “he broke bread and ate,” the singular is a synecdoche where a part stands for the whole. Does Luke really want us to think that Paul broke bread by himself, that he ate alone?  I think not. Rather, Paul is the focus of the text–preaching, healing, etc., and consequently he is the lead character in the breaking of bread.  But he does not break bread alone or eat alone in the midst of a meeting of the disciples, does he?

Further, Luke says Paul “broke bread and ate.” While some note that the verb geuomai (“ate”) literally means “taste” and therefore could refer to only bread and wine as in a contemporary Lord’s Supper, Luke uses the verb in the sense of “eat.” This is clear by his usage elsewhere. He only uses the verb concerning food in Luke 14:24 (eating a supper), Acts 10:11 (Peter is hungry and wants to eat), Acts 23:14 (zealots vow not to eat till they kill Paul) and here. The verb, then, is only used in Acts for meals and it has the metaphorical meaning of enjoying food. To “taste” is to experience the goodness of food and enjoy it.  Just as people “taste death” (experience death; Luke 9:27), so Paul (and by synecdoche the whole gathering) experienced–tasted–the food.

It is because of Luke’s usage of “taste” here and throughout his narrative that some want to see two different breakings of bread in this text:  20:7 is the Lord’s Supper and 20:11 is a “common meal.” This is strained and unnecessary. It is strained because it forces Luke to use the same words to describe two different things in the same paragraph without any indication in the language to highlight the difference.  It is unnecessary because it is based on a presupposition–imported into the context–that the Lord’s Supper cannot be a meal (even though it is called the Lord’s Supper).

Further, the argument that the same proponents would use to distinguish the “breaking of bread” in Acts 2 gets turned on its head here. Whereas it is the breaking of the bread in Acts 2:42 and thus the Lord’s  Supper (according to the argument), Acts 2:46 is simply the breaking of bread (without the article) and is thus a common meal.  But in Acts 20:7 Luke says they came together to break bread (without the article) but in Acts 20:11 is the breaking of the bread. Why does the bread in Acts 2:42 necessitate the Lord’s Supper in distinction from Acts 2:46 but it does not in Acts 20:11 in distinction from Acts 20:7?  Actually, it is more simple to see breaking bread as the same in all instances and this entails eating food together in a meal.

The unity of breaking bread and eating is the same as Acts 2:46, and describes the meal which characterized the Lord’s Supper. Breaking bread is a meal where the disciples eat together in the presence of the living Christ and, in this case, in the presence of the resurrected Eutyches.

The coordination of the first day of the week, breaking bread and resurrection gives theological substance to the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper as a meal as it bears witness to the living presence of Christ within the community. Given that early Christians met every first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1), and that they gathered to eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 20:7), there are good historical reasons for believing that Christians met every first day of the week in order to eat the Lord’s Supper. More importantly, there are good theological reasons for believing this given the intersection of the first day of the week, resurrection and breaking bread. The first day of the week is the day of remembrance, the day of our deliverance, because it is the day on which God raised Jesus from the dead and created his new community, the church. The same reason the church gathers every first day of the week is the same reason it should eat the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. Whatever reason one might offer for not eating every Sunday, the same reason could be given for not meeting. Whatever reason one might offer for meeting every Sunday, the same reason could be given for eating. It is a day of worship and a day of celebration because of what God has done in the gospel, and the gospel is proclaimed in the Lord’s Supper. If the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the resurrection, why omit the very ordinance God has given us to celebrate it when we gather on the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection? If gathering every first day of the week to celebrate our redemption through the gospel is appropriate, why is not the use of God’s gift of the Lord’s Supper equally appropriate? The church as a whole should return to the early Christian practice of breaking bread every Sunday.



48 Responses to “Breaking Bread in Luke-Acts IV: Acts 20:7-12”

  1.   Zach Cox Says:

    Would you agree that the “first day” observance was a theological decision that the community made (“as aften as…”) rather than a prescriptive fulfillment of some inflexible ordinance (“thou shalt…”). And if so, as I would argue, similar decisions related to the time of partaking are permitted today when theologically grounded (baptisms,etc.).

    Thanks,

    Zach Cox

  2.   Terrell Lee Says:

    So, John Mark, when you write your book on hermeneutics do you plan to include a chapter on narrative exegesis? I certainly hope so. Your hermeneutic really needs wider exposure, not just in the C of C. (I really believe A. Campbell would be proud of you even though your tracks sometimes cross his. More importantly, thanks for the way you honor God in your ministry.)

    O, and when can we expect your book to be published? Are you accepting pre-pub orders?

  3. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I agree. I don’t see any prescription here. Rather, I see Luke offering a theological connection between the breaking bread, first day of the week and resurrection. This is not an exclusive connection as if it is only Sunday (e.g., Acts 2:46) or even a prescription for every Sunday. However, I do find the theological connection strong and believe–as stated above–that there is no reason not to eat when we meet on Sunday and there is this strong reason to do so. There are, I think, other theological and significant occasions for breaking bread as well, including baptisms, weddings, familiy reunions, etc.

  4. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I think any book is rather distant at this point…several years away. Some good material is available (McKnight’s recent “Blue Parakeet,” for example). And I am enjoying “resting” from such labor at the moment. :-) But I do appreciate your encouragement. :-)

  5.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Another thought or two . . . How would you interpret the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000? It seems to me that Luke’s accounts would fit into the broader context of table fellowship; John specifically mentions the matter of the 5,000 wanting to crown Jesus as king. And the 5,000 appears to be a Jewish audience with the 4,000 being a possible Gentile audience (Mk. 7:31). . . Were any of the Gospel writers trying to be “eucharistic” in recording the accounts? Is Jesus merely demonstrating that he came to feed both Jews and Greeks? Sure, I have some thoughts related to these questions but I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts. Thanks.

  6. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I have not focused on Mark or Matthew as much, so I will leave that without comment. :-) However, I do believe Luke 9 anticipates Luke 22. It might be anachronistic to call it “Eucharistic” but it functions redemptively in the setting, portrays him as the Messiah, calls the disciples to mission, and it is a meal hosted by the living Christ. I think it is part of the theological meaning of Eucharist and the experience of the thousands that day was communion with the living Christ as they experienced God’s grace on that occasion.

  7.   Gardner Says:

    This post is full of thought provoking material as is most of what you write. The exchange about which elements are “prescriptive” and which simply involve things that there “is no reason not to do” when meeting on Sundays is interesting from my perspective, going back to the old question of how obligated we should feel to follow some N.T. examples.

    Hope to spend this weekend in your lovely city.

  8.   Brian Says:

    Have you, or will you do a review of The Blue Parakeet? I would enjoy reading your thoughts on that book.

  9. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    It does raise that question, Garnder; for sure. Generally, I don’t see how we move from descriptive to prescriptve without some theological foundation. In general,it seems to me, that Luke wants to form a communal habit (and/or explain the habit they already have) of eating together to experience fellowship and the grace of the risen Christ, but he nowhere prescribes how often they should do so. “Participate in it and share its life together,” I think he would tell us, “and recognize its significance.”

  10. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I will be looking at McKnight’s book carefully in the late spring. So, perhaps I will share a post or two about it. Well see…. :-)

  11. Profile photo of Alan Scott  Alan Scott Says:

    I guess you may know Sublett has taken another shot at you and “A Gathered People” on his website. You and the team have put together a very good book, and I cannot understand why some have so much aversion to what God is teaching His people from the Old AND New Testaments.

  12. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Yes, he notified me through email. Honestly, I have only read snipets from him–enough to know that he and come from very different places when reading the Hebrew Scriptures.

  13.   rich constant Says:

    1st cor.10…
    as we are set free by christ
    do we not need spirtual food and drink every day…
    my brother
    paul seems to be implying this.
    no?

  14.   Terrell Lee Says:

    “Sublett?” Is there an address for him that you could pass along?

  15.   rich constant Says:

    as keith said something along the lines of lazy scholorship…
    to which said commit, is, in this case like throwing gas on a small fire…
    so thanks keith :-)
    i am wondering if sunday only would be called lazy FELLOWSHIP…
    with our lord

    blessings all
    boy oh boy
    john mark
    thank you ,thank you, thank you.

  16.   rich constant Says:

    gardner says obligated to follow N.T. examples.
    respectly garder
    why not say: how could reciprocate the love of christ
    in faithful deeds that we see as examples of kingdom living with the called out by god
    any way a thought

  17. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    For those interested…like Terrell…

    http://www.piney.com/Hicks.Gathered.html

    :-) Enjoy

  18. Profile photo of Keith Brenton  Keith Brenton Says:

    But then, as nearly as I can tell, Ken Sublett also condemns music in worship. Pretty much any kind of music, even a cappella. That’s the impression I get at least, and this time I will have to confess lazy scholarship when visiting his site because trying to make sense of it makes my head hurt after only a very few paragraphs.

  19. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Makes my head hurt as well…but I thought it was just me. :-)

  20.   rich constant Says:

    sublett…
    what’s nice about that review is and for me john mark
    it is just to complex for my simple mind…
    thank god
    amd blessings

  21.   Dale Says:

    In regard to the following statements:

    “Whereas it is the breaking of the bread in Acts 2:42 and thus the Lord’s Supper (according to the argument), Acts 2:46 is simply the breaking of bread (without the article) and is thus a common meal. But in Acts 20:7 Luke says they came together to break bread (without the article) but in Acts 20:11 is the breaking of the bread.”

    Doesn’t the Textus Receptus employ the article in Acts 20:7? Are you sure the article is used in Acts 20:11? Thanks…

    • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      In the TR that I examined–and the TR is not monolithic–there is an article (tou, genitive) that is used in Acts 20:7 but it does not modify the word bread (which is accusative case in the text). The TR (which I examined) did not have the article in Acts 20:11 but the better modern texts do have it. The TR has the article in both Luke 24:30 and Luke 24:35.

      Your welcome…and blessings. JMH

      •   Dale Says:

        Would you say that the text of Acts 20:7 in the TR would provide a basis for making the translation, “break the bread” and accurate translation? Thanks…

        • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          The TR that I looked at has the article in the genitive case (tou) but bread was in the accusative case. Consequently, it is not “the bread” in the TR that I looked at. So, my answer is no, at least according to the TR that I looked at. Blessings, JMH

  22.   Dale Says:

    Are you familiar with the comments of Alexander Campbell concerning how it is determined that Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7 are references to the Lord’s supper in his article “Breaking the Loaf?” Thanks… Dale

    • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Yes, I am. I have students read his “Breaking Bread” series in my courses on Restoration Theology and in my Hermeneutics class. I think “breaking of bread” is the Lord’s Supper and I don’t buy his argument that “breaking bread” in Acts 2:46 is something different.

  23.   Dale Says:

    I have long been interested in the phrase translated “the Lord’s supper in 1 Cor. 11:20. It is also interesting that the article is not in the Greek text in this verse. I have been told that the translation, “a Lord’s supper,” is possibly a more accurate translation. So in reality, as far as I am able to determine, the literal phrase, “the Lord’s supper,” cannot be found in scripture. It makes one wonder why the translators inserted the article unless the assumption that a ritual meal called “the Lord’s supper” was known to the Corinthians and possibly influenced them. I would appreciate your comments on this. Thanks… Dale

    • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I would suggest that the term kuriakon is definitive without the article; it is a term that means “belonging to the Lord.” I think Paul means something like “the supper you ate did not belong to the Lord.” An article is not necessary for definitiveness and the article is not always definitive in terms of specifying something narrow. The Greek article does not exactly match the use of the article in English. It is always too much, in my mind, to base anything on the article itself. I don’t think “a Lord’s supper” is necessarily any more accurate, and–in fact–may be a bit misleading if one draws the conclusion that there was a lack of ritual or regularity to this meal the embobied a theological meaning.

      I do think there was some ritualized form in the regular (I presume weekly) meal that the Corinthian church ate. It included the words of institution, for example as well as bread and wine (common, of course, at festive meals). But the meal does include a “form” of some kind that includes a theology of presence and proclamation.

  24.   Dale Says:

    I understand that “kyrikon” is an adjective and therefore gives a quality to the word it modifies (supper). So I could understand this phrase as meaning a type of supper rather than a particular or specific one. I also understand that there is no specific English word to directly translate it. Could not “lordly,” or “lordian,” or “lord-type” expressions give a possible meaning? In other words, the ‘manner’ in which they ate a social meal kept it from being one which honored the Lord (Just my thoughts).

    I would be interested to know why you think there was some ritualized regular meal the Corinthian church ate and why you presume it to be weekly?

    I also seem to notice an abundance of assumptions on the part of some when this topic is discussed.

    Thanks… Dale

    • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I would agree that the point is that the manner in which they ate their meal kept it from being one which honored the Lord. I think that is exactly the point.

      At the same time, it seems to me that some ritual form was involved since Paul calls the Corinthians back to the tradition of the words of institution at the last supper. He reminds them of the language of “this is my body” and “this is my blood” as moments of meaning. Their meal is a Lord’s meal, and thus they honor the Lord by remembering, proclaiming and experiencing the presence of Jesus at their table. It seems to me that Paul intended them to eat bread and drink wine as specific acts of honoring the Lord as a community at this meal.

      I think it is both a social and religious meal–it is a table not just of bread and wine, but a supper that unites the church (rich and poor, Greek and Jew) as the one body of Christ as they commune with each other and Christ. It is not an either/or (social or religious) to me, but a both/and (social and religilus). I use “religious” in the sense of a spiritual ritual or discipline in which the community is called to participate.

      I presume weekly because of the gathering as an ecclesia and this seems to be what Corinth did on a weekly basis (my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 16). It is an inference–nothing more.

      We all presume and infer when talking about this topic as seek to visualize, embody and practice it. We have few details and the descriptions we have are less than full. :-)

      •   rich constant Says:

        JOHN MARK:
        AS you say this,
        “He reminds them of the language of “this is my body” and “this is my blood” as moments of meaning.”

        it also might be prudent to interject that in their comming together in this 1st cent. and other congragations of the lord, the “spirit of the Lord was taking a bit more of a role in establishing the faith of non believer’s in conferming the word’s that were being brought forth by the apost. and profets.
        or one of the underlieing implacations of the inferences tied to the letter’s hermundic is that the lord must have been “very” present in their communitie’s… seems to me

        “Their meal is a Lord’s meal, and thus they honor the Lord by remembering, proclaiming and experiencing the presence of Jesus at their table.”

        blessing’s
        all

  25.   Dale Says:

    All your points are well taken and I appreciate that. I’m not sure that Paul had the conception of a “common” meal. Neither am I sure he wouldn’t contend that ALL meals are meant to glorify the Lord. Just one more comment… Concerning 1 Cor 1&2, I see nothing, not even an inference that would lead one to presume a gathering. But again, that is a matter of opinion I suppose.

    Thanks… Dale

  26.   rich constant Says:

    i don’t get it
    I’m not sure that Paul had the conception of a “common” meal.
    explain to me you guys why ? would paul and luke and jude .
    even bring IT up. if rom 12-1 says anything i would be leaning in the direction that more meals than sunday. meals on the lord’s day (used some where bok of rev.???)
    what i am getting at is the need for those old fashoned church gettogethers, butt with a new twist
    like the halloween party at the building last week
    the young people had a dance horse and buggy all the girls got dressed up formal the older girls 20-24 gave there formal dresses to the highschoolers and some one even proposed.
    talk about a love feast…some where around 500
    concerning your topic why in the world not have the lords meal at this gathering of believers…
    I SEE A LITTLE TRADITION HERE WHERE IT IS NOT HELPFUL AND UNNECESSARY..
    SORRY SPELL CHECK JUST WENT SOUTH…
    BOY OH BOY
    SO WHAT DO YOU TWO YOUNG PEOPLE THINK.
    AM I JUST BEING an ol stick in the mud… :-)

    john mark one of the young pastors 35-40ish. said the other night he bet i only used the king james bible. theyt all use the NASB. he had a NIV i told him to burn it.
    so they ask what kind i liked and i told them one they never heardof

    so much for the old folk

    blessings

  27.   Dale Says:

    Was there an established church at Troas?

    It is normally assumed by most students of the NT that there was an established church at Troas. How did this idea come about? It is interesting to observe the text of Acts 20 as follows:

    “4 And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius ofDerbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.
    5 But ‘these’ had gone on ahead and were waiting for ‘us’ at Troas.
    6 ‘We’ sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to ‘them’ at Troas within five days; and there ‘we’ stayed seven days.
    7 On the first day of the week, when ‘we’ were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to ‘them’, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”

    I think it is significant if we notice the “us” and “we” clauses here. They no doubt refer to Luke and Paul. The “these” and “them” clauses evidently refer to the traveling companions. Now, can we not say that the “we” who were gathered together refers to Luke and Paul? And can we not say that the “them” who Paul began talking to were the same traveling companions (them) mentioned in the preceding verses? There is no mention here of any disciples who lived in Troas. Is there? I know that Eutychus is mentioned here. But it is entirely possible that he was merely a curious and interested bystander and not afilliated with any organized group. The text is silent on this point.

    So it is quite easy, when we take no facts other than what the text reveals, for me to think that all that is mentioned here referred primarily to Paul, Luke, and the seven traveling companions. All comments are welcome. Thanks… Dale

    • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I see no reason to think there was not an established congregation in Troas. Paul reported an “open door” in Troas in 2 Corinthians.

      Luke writes that “we gathered” and Paul spoke to “them.” This indicates to me that the “them” is different from the “we” of the travelling companions. There is no reason to restrict “we” to only Paul and Luke. Rather, it refers to to the whole travelling group. The presence of Eutychus tells us it was more than Paul’s companions, and it appears special pleading to me to theorize that he was only a curious bystander.

      Why speak all night to a group he is traveling with as if there is some urgency to talk with them before the boat left? Is the “they” who took the young man home alive comforted a reference to the travelling companions or to the “them” that is the congregation at Troas? It seems the latter is much more likely to me as Paul and his companions would have been on their way to continue their journey.

      Consequently, I don’t think your scenario has much weight and that the historic, traditional interpretation is the most obvious way to read the text.

      Blessings, John Mark

      •   Dale Says:

        John,

        The text of Acts 20 reads: “5 But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. 6 We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.”

        Who does the “them” in verse 6 refer to?

        Thanks… Dale

        • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          I understand the “them” in 20:6 to refer to Paul’s travelling companions. But I also so see a paragraph break with verse 7 indicated by the temporal qualifier and the use of the participle. Further, the “them” now includes Eutyches which indicates it is a broader reference than the “them” in verse 6. In any event, it is a gathering of disciples to break bread which is something that disciples did habitually, has a Lukan meaning of a meal hosted by Jesus, and is inclusive of more than just Paul and his companions.

  28.   Johnny Melton Says:

    Dale,
    You write “Concerning 1 Cor 1&2, I see nothing, not even an inference that would lead one to presume a gathering.” I am assuming that “1 Cor 1&2″ is a typo and that you mean “1 Cor 16″ referring to John Mark’s citation of 1 Cor 16 as a basis for understanding a regular gathering on the first day of the week in Corinth. A model order for the collection for the saints had been given previously by Paul to the churches of Galatia. “Churches” here is “ekklesiais” which is the plural of ekkelsia. Ekklesia means “an assembly of people.” Inherent in the word is the notion of individuals being called into assembly. If you have an ekklesia you have a gathering of people. If there is no gathering implied, then the word “church” or “churches” is being misapplied. Paul is, of course, addressing the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2), so when he says “you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia” the “you” to whom he is writing is the “church of God” at Corinth. The grammar is ambiguous and could mean each one of you set aside privately some funds, or it could mean each one of you individually set aside funds into a common treasury. The context, I think, determines which grammatical alternative to take. The objective of the instruction is to eliminate multiple “gatherings” or “collections” upon Paul’s arrival to receive the “collection for the saints.” If individuals set aside funds privately then the only way to get them to Paul upon his arrival would be for there to be multiple gatherings–each individual would have to bring his/her private collection and give it to Paul, who presumably would combine the funds into one collection. This would defeat Paul’s stated purpose for giving the instructions in the first place. The church gathered together each first day of the week, and because of that logistical fact, Paul gave a piece of practical advice: Contribute funds into a common treasury so that there will not be any inconvenient gatherings when I arrive in person to receive the collection. Finally, even if there is not a common treasury during the course of collecting the “collection for the saints,” there will be a common treasury once the funds are given to Paul; and even if there are no weekly gatherings in 1 Cor. 16, there is an implied gathering for the purpose of delivering the collection to Paul.

  29.   Dale Says:

    John, are you familiar with and/or have there been any discussions here concerning the method Alexander Campbell used to determine that the phrase “break bread” in Acts 20:7 is a reference to the Lord’s supper?

    Thanks… Dale

    • Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Yes, I am famliar with them, but they have not been discussed on this blog at any length. His argument is found in his “Breaking Bread” series published in the Christian Baptist as part of his “Ancient Order” series, but more fully explained in the expanded version offered in his book Christian System.

  30.   Dale Says:

    In Prop. V of Alexander Campbell’s article, “Breaking The Loaf,” is the following paragraph:

    [But to break a loaf, or to break bread, was a phrase common among the Jews to denote ordinary eating for refreshment. For example, Acts ii. 46: - "Daily, with one accord, they continued in the temple and in breaking bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness, and simplicity of heart." Also, after Paul had restored Eutychus at Troas, we are informed he brake a loaf and ate. Here it must refer to himself, not only because it is used indefinitely, but because he that eats is in the same number with him that breaks a loaf. But when an established usage is referred to, the article or some definite term ascertains what is alluded to. Thus Acts ii. 42, it is "the breaking of the loaf." And Acts xx. 7, it is "They assembled for the breaking of the loaf."]

    I assume that by the phrase, “an established usage,” he is referring to the Lord’s supper. So it seems that for Campbell the use of the article determines what is a reference to the Lord’s supper. But what is interesting is the translation of Acts 20:7 quoted here, specifically where it says, “They assembled for the breaking of the loaf.” The only translation that I am aware of that translates it thus is his own translation, The Living Oracles (Fourth Edition). In The Living Oracles (First Edition) it is translated thus: “And on the first day of the week, when the disciples met together to break bread, Paul being about to depart on the morrow, discoursed to them and continued his speech until midnight.”

    This raises some interesting questions to me.

    Thanks… Dale

  31.   Charles Stelding Says:

    John Mark,

    I was re-reading the Gospel of John and, when I came across this text in John, I thought of your essays on eating with Jesus in the context of the resurrection:

    “Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him [Jesus]. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.” (John 12:1f)

    Here you have a meal with Jesus and the resurrected Lazarus is present, very much like the resurrected Eutycus in Acts 20.

    I’m wondering if there is a connection or just a coincidence of two men resurrected and Jesus eating a meal with them. I’ve read that John and Luke have similar theologies. It is interesting to me here that the two events have a somewhat similar theme. You may have already discussed this elsewhere, but I’m wondering if you see any connection.

  32.   R.J. Says:

    I’m not very good at Greek. So I’m wondering why there are three words in-between the words “breaking” and “Bread” in Acts 2:46?

    “Klao te kata oikos artos”

    Klao=present active participle-nominative plural masculine

    Te=particle

    kata=proposition

    Oikos=accusative singular masculine

    Artos=the same as oikos

  33. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    TE as a postpositive does not head the class. “Kata oikos” is an expression that hangs together. So, “breaking te at home bread” is a natural expression. Breaking bread is the event, and at home is the place. Placing at home before bread is a way of linking it closely and paralleling the temple expression earlier in the sentence. “Daily, gathering…breaking.”

  34.   Mark Charlton Says:

    Do you think the article before bread in vs. 11 is anaphoric? (Thus meaning that the bread they actually came together to eat in vs. 7 was not eaten until vs. 11) If this is the case isn’t it noteworthy that, if this is an example in which the time is significant (partaking of communion on the first day of the week), Luke with a couple of thousand of first days of the week that could be used as an example, picks the Sunday where they don’t actually break the bread until Monday?

  35. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  johnmarkhicks Says:

    Yes, I think the action of v. 11 is the same action as 7. The first states the intention of the gathering, and the second states the action the gathering intended.

    The question of timing is ambiguous to one degree. We don’t know if this accounting of time is Jewish or Roman or something else. If Jewish or Roman, it is not a problem. Jewish reckoning from sunset to sunset would mean they met on what we would call Saturday evening and when they ate after midnight, it would still be the first day of the week. Roman reckoning, by some reports, is sunrise to sunrise which would mean that they meet on what we would call Sunday evening but their eating after midnight was still the first day of the week. Or perhaps it was some other reckoning. But none of that is demonstrable with any certainty.

    I think the “first day of the week” reference is a theological reference point that connects the day with resurrection day in Luke 24. The reason Luke tells this story is not because it was a “first day of the week story” but that it was a resurrection on the first day of the week when the disciples broke bread, just as in Luke 24. Even if the circumstance of Paul preaching past midnight created some disharmony with that (depending on how time was reckoned), it turned out an unusual circumstance, an exceptional one to say the least. And, even if we count it as a Monday morning, I don’t think it undermines the theological point of the meeting, breaking bread and resurrection as a theological “first day of the week” event, as resurrection Sunday is new creation, the eighth day of creation itself.

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